Irish season in review: Notre Dame 50, Navy 10

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Irish season in review: Notre Dame 50, Navy 10

Four months ago, the focus was on Notre Dame not because of any championship aspirations, but because of a slew of suspensions and controversial comments made by a radio announcer.

The focus swiftly changed over the next few months, but on Sept. 1, Notre Dame had plenty of distractions involving those who wouldn't play a role in the team's season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Tommy Rees and Cierre Wood were suspended for the game, taking out the team's starting quarterback and leading rusher from the 2011 season. Radio broadcaster Allen Pinkett was pulled off the trip after saying the team needed more criminals, sparking plenty of debates that had nothing to do with the on-field product at Notre Dame:

Piling on that, Notre Dame had to deal with a secondary most feared would be the team's weak link. Lo Wood's ruptured Achilles' tendon meant KeiVarae Russell, who hadn't played a down of cornerback in his life, would start for the Irish. And Everett Golson was set trot out on the pitch at Aviva Stadium as Notre Dame's starting quarterback with nobody really knowing how he'd fare in that role.

"It can all be decided and look perfect in practice, and when the lights go on -- we all know from being around this game that, when the lights go on, kids react differently," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said before the season. "Some kids play better than they ever play, and some kids play worse."

All this added up to a ton of excess baggage following the Irish across the Atlantic Ocean. But in 60 minutes in Dublin, Notre Dame dispatched Navy with ease, blowing by the Midshipmen 50-10.

"We put 50 points on the board, so that's a pretty good start," coach Brian Kelly aptly summed up.

A year after opening the season with torrent of turnovers in a loss to South Florida, Notre Dame forced four turnovers and only committed one, a sign of things to come in the regular season. Stephon Tuitt's 77-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery punctuated a suffocating defensive effort, while Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III scored a pair of touchdowns apiece, easily making up for the production lost without Wood in the lineup.

Golson wasn't flashy, but he was efficient running a limited playbook, completing 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Ultimately, Notre Dame's win over Navy wasn't a barometer for the rest of the season. Fifty points was Notre Dame's season high, and Atkinson was eventually phased out of the team's playbook as the season wore on. But Riddick emerged as a legitimate threat out of the backfield after his previous foray into receiving, and he would hold on to that No. 1 running back role throughout the season.

What Notre Dame's season opener did do was set the tone for a team which greatly improved its turnover ratio from 2011. A year after coughing up the ball 10 times in its first two games, Notre Dame largely held on to the football while forcing plenty of turnovers from its opponents.

And overall, the easy 50-10 win was the first inclination that this wasn't the same Notre Dame team that went 8-5 in the previous two years.

Stay with CSNChicago.com every weekday through the end of January for game-by-game reviews of Notre Dame's run to the BCS Championship.

Handing out Notre Dame’s 2016 awards and superlatives

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USA Today

Handing out Notre Dame’s 2016 awards and superlatives

Notre Dame’s annual Echoes awards show is this week, and while the team’s 4-8 record wasn’t worth celebrating, a few individual performances certainly were. 

With that in mind, Mike Monaco and I ran down our own awards and superlatives for Notre Dame’s 2016 season on the Still Independent podcast this week. Listen at the link here or in the embedded player below:

A quick rundown of who I picked for each of our awards, which Mike and I further explained in the podcast:

Team MVP - QB DeShone Kizer

Defensive MVP - LB James Onwualu

Offensive MVP - WR Equanimeous St. Brown

Best play - Equanimeous St. Brown’s somersault touchdown against Texas

Best game - Jarron Jones (six tackles for a loss) vs. Miami

Defensive newcomer of the year - CB Julian Love

Offensive newcomer of the year - WR Kevin Stepherson

Biggest disappointment - Notre Dame’s defense under Brian VanGorder for the season’s first four games

Unsung stars - WR Torii Hunter Jr. and DE Isaac Rochell

Wide receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame

Wide receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame

Redshirt sophomore receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame after graduating in the spring, joining offensive lineman John Montelus and quarterback Malik Zaire in leaving South Bend after earning their degrees.

Holmes, a former four-star recruit from Pembroke Pines, Fla., was the fifth-most targeted wide receiver on Notre Dame in 2016 (21 targets) and caught 11 passes for 96 yards. Holmes played in two games as a true freshman in 2014 but redshirted in 2015.

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Holmes posted this message to Twitter Saturday afternoon:

Holmes had offered from a number of top programs coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in South Florida, including Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Stanford and Wisconsin.